Dastardly attack

The suicide car bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7 that resulted in the death of over 40 people bears the hallmark of similar assaults carried out by the Taliban in the past. While it is not certain that the Afghan insurgent groups operate under centralised command and control, their common objective is the restoration of Taliban rule. That being the case, the statement issued by a spokesman of the outfit disclaiming responsibility will be met with more than a touch of scepticism. The resurgent Islamist movement, which is vigorously pursuing a policy of destabilisation on both sides of the Durand Line, would always fancy a strike against the assets of a country that is among the largest donors to Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts. This obscurantist outfit has never hidden its abhorrence for the multi-layered relationship between the Indian and the Afghan peoples, which stretches across the spheres of culture, trade, education, health services, security, and diplomacy. Given this context, it is reasonable to presume that the Taliban did not view the Indian diplomatic mission merely as a target of opportunity but had drawn up specific plans to attack it. The question that will probably remain unanswered is whether the Islamists were acting completely on their own or at the instigation of other forces. In airing its assessment that the attack was carried out in collaboration “with an active intelligence service in the region,” the Afghan Interior Ministry has been a little more circumspect now than in the past. After an assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai in April 2008, authorities in Kabul had accused Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence of involvement.

After the death of the military attaché, a political counsellor, two security guards, and a local employee in the Kabul attack, questions will undoubtedly be raised about the security of the Indian diplomatic offices located in five Afghan cities and of the development projects undertaken in widely scattered areas. The Embassy, which seems to have suffered severe damage in the blast, is situated close to the Interior Ministry building. Several other government offices are located on the same road. It appears inconceivable that the suicide bomber could have got through the security cordons manned by Afghan soldiers and policemen without inside help. However, hazards of this nature cannot be ruled out in a country that is rebuilding from scratch. That said, India must do all it can to protect its citizens who are working in dangerous environments even as it sticks by its commitment to Afghanistan.

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